In his book The Noonday Demon, Andrew Solomon compares depression to a rusting iron frame of a building. Gradually over time, the structure’s support weakens, the solid metal turning into powder. The building may look okay from the outside, but it is in danger of collapsing from within. Eventually, that happens: one essential part can maintain no longer, and a chain reaction wherein each strut that relied upon another loses its bulwark and the floors fall one into another.
Depression has a way of sneaking up on you in the same way. It seems like things are fine, particularly to other people, but something is deeply wrong. It frustrates because you can’t put your finger on it; like the rusting frame, the emotional framework is covered up by personality, thoughts, beliefs, goals, and ideals. Despite its hidden nature, you know it’s there, because you can feel its influence. You have to exert more energy in holding yourself up, you have to adjust for the lack of balance in your feelings. It takes strength to put on a face around others, it takes endurance to work towards feeling better, even at the smallest things. What replenishes the person next to you feels empty.
This kind of emotional decay takes more than one thing to overcome. It may not be clear as to what will help right now, what the answer may be, but like a reinforced structure it is important to be propped up on more than one side. When someone comes to me asking for help from depression, I always consider multiple ways we can work to overcome it. Exercise is a simple and powerful option, often recommended by physicians. Finding a set of friends who you want to share both your time and your self with is key. Hobbies are valuable, as is taking in other people’s creativity through stories and music and also creating and expressing yourself. None of any of these suggestions are enough on their own to take hold of depression, but in conjunction they can provide a framework of support. It is entirely okay to rely on one of them from time to time, to make life just about one small thing; this is the nature of life. Having a collection to choose from allows for you to move from one to the next as you need, when you need to.